If Heathrow Airport fails to get approval for a third runway it will put the UK at a real commercial disadvantage, warns leading industry body the Freight Transport Association (FTA).
Christopher Snelling, Head of Global Supply Chain Policy, said:
“A 'no' to a third runway would be a devastating body blow, not just for Heathrow but for the UK. London is the commercial hub of Northern Europe, thanks largely to Heathrow. Without a third runway, Heathrow will become far less relevant to global air freight and put our domestic economy at a huge disadvantage in the face of better-equipped Continental rivals.”
Heathrow accounts for more air freight (over half of UK air freight by weight), than all the other UK airports combined, contributing massively to the UK's current status as a centre of international business. But to maintain this status a third runway represents the only viable option. The £4.5 billion international rail exchange (The Heathrow Hub) that is being touted as a possible alternative to a third runway will be of next to no use to the freight industry as domestic movements account for less than three per cent of UK air freight.
Arguably, even with a third runway Heathrow would still be under-equipped compared to its European equivalents. For example, Schipol Airport (Amsterdam) boasts five runways, Charles de Gaulle (Paris) has four and so too will Main airport (Frankfurt).
Third-runway protesters are in danger of ignoring Heathrow's significance to the country's economic wellbeing. Snelling continues:
“Some perspective is desperately needed as, in the great scheme of things, air freight makes a minuscule contribution to the UK's CO2 emissions, at just 0.6 per cent. At the same time, air freight accounts for 25 per cent of the value of all the UK's international exports.
“What's more, lighter materials, changes to aviation control procedure and more effective jet engines will curb fuel use and help keep emissions relatively low.”
Air services are becoming increasingly vital to UK trade, especially with fast-growing emerging economies, such as China, and for trade in high-value goods and services. Air freight also plays a crucial but sometimes underestimated role in allowing developing nations, like Africa, trade in fresh produce with the UK.